Research and innovations being developed at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) hold promise, and could transform Nigeria’s agricultural narrative, says Nigeria’s agricultural think-tank, the Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG).
The think tank, which comprises eminent persons drawn from Nigeria’s private sector players in the agricultural value chain and led by its Vice president, Emmanuel Ijewere, paid a visit to IITA to explore areas of possible collaboration with IITA.
The team was puzzled and excited over the many innovations that have been developed by researchers in IITA ranging from improved seeds that could more than double farmers’ productivity, to technologies that control weeds and double the yield of cassava, to simple processing machines that add value to crops such as cowpea, cassava, and yam. Other technologies such as inoculum production which raises the productivity of legumes such as soybean by about 20 percent, and aflasafe—a biological control product for managing aflatoxins—were also explored. The semi-autotrophic hydroponics which is being used to produce thousands of clean seeds of clonal crops such as cassava and yam, and the yam aeroponics—a system of growing clean seed yam in the air—were also well received by the group.
After a series of presentations by IITA researchers and a tour of the 1000-hectare research facility, Mr Ijewere remarked, “The visit to IITA is an eye opener.”
“Yes, we knew that IITA was doing some things, but little did we realize the extent and depth of what they have done… how far they have gone, and how relevant they have become to Nigeria’s agriculture future,” he added.
Located in Ibadan—about 150 kilometres from the commercial city of Lagos, Nigeria, IITA was established 50 years ago with the aim of providing solutions to constraints that plague Africa’s agriculture and development.
In the last 7 years, IITA under the leadership of Dr Nteranya Sanginga (Director General), has refreshed its strategy with emphasis not just on research but also partnership building, delivery, commercialization of technologies and dissemination of innovations, and youth in agribusiness.
Mr Ijewere said the NABG would work with IITA to see how the research outputs of the Institute in the last 50 years could be ‘translated to money in the bank for resource-poor farmers.’
The President of NABG, Mr Sani Dangote, who is also the Vice President of the Dangote Group said, “What we saw here (in IITA) is amazing.”
Mr Dangote, who was represented by Mr. Baba Girma said, “I never thought we have this in Nigeria. Before, we thought IITA was only about research but what we saw today shows opportunities that can bring synergy between what they (IITA) are doing and the private sector.”
Earlier, the Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery, Dr Kenton Dashiell, reiterated IITA’s commitment to work with the private sector with the goal of improving the livelihoods of millions of farmers in Africa.
The convener of the meeting, Dr Alfred Dixon, Director for Development and Delivery at IITA, said IITA was glad for the exploratory visit by NABG, and was willing to join forces with the group towards eliminating poverty and hunger in Nigeria.
Dixon said the decision to collaborate with NABG and other partners was aimed at paving the way for the rapid delivery of IITA-developed technologies.
Researchers and staff who made presentations at the meeting included Dr Robert Asiedu, West Africa Hub Director; Dr Chrys Akem, Project Coordinator; Mr Frederick Schreurs, Chief Executive Officer, IITA Business Incubation Platform; Dr Sam Ajala, Maize Breeder; Dr Elizabeth Parkes, Cassava Breeder; Dr David DeKoeyer, Yam Breeder; Dr Christian Fatokun, Cowpea Breeder; Prof. David Ojo, Soybean Breeder; Mr Oluwaseun Adedeji, member, IITA Youth Agripreneurs; and Prof. Friday Ekeleme, Weed Scientist. Others were Dr Norbert Maroya, Yam Breeder; Dr Peter Kolawole, Postharvest Engineer; Dr Mary E. Deibiru, Scientist; Mr Wilson Igbaifua, Farm Manager; Mr Oluwadare Odusanya, a youth agripreneur; Mr A. Alonge, NoduMax Specialist, and Mr. B. Zeledon, Aflasafe Specialist.